Salcombe Harbour Hotel
At the far end of Salcombe village in Devon, sits the Salcombe Harbour Hotel, nestled into, and jutting out of, one of the cliffs that sit overlooking the estuary. On a recent visit, I was charmed by this hotel and indeed, by Salcombe. Here's why:
WHY HERE AND NOT A HOLIDAY COTTAGE?
Salcombe is the place where people have a second home, from cute (probably too small) cottages just off the high street, where parking is a bit of a nightmare, to grand condo-style houses that cost a fair whack. And most of them can be rented out. But there are a few hotels in the area, and this is the best. After a recent (costly) refurbishment, the hotel packs a punch in terms of décor, service, location and charm. Yes it's part of a chain, but it still has its own identity.
WHEN'S THE BEST TIME TO COME?
It depends what you want, so chose your time to visit Salcombe wisely. It's a beautiful little village and just as you might expect a seaside village to be; with tight roads, craft shops, cosy pubs and brilliant local food. But in the height of summer, all those charming qualities could be the thing that becomes a turn-off. Salcombe attracts a lot visitors in the height of summer, and soon, those winding roads might have you tearing your hair out. Luckily, the hotel has a genius parking system, so there's no need to worry about leaving your car overlooking a cliff because it might be the only place. This area is renowned for its crab, not only in the UK but the world over. Home to the Brown Crab that breeds and lives just 3 miles outside the estuary, this is a working fishing village. May and September are the best times, away from school holidays, when the weather can be glorious but the streets not as busy.
SO WHAT'S THE HOTEL LIKE?
As you might expect from a seaside hotel, it has a coastal feel but nothing too twee or overbearing. Colours in the main areas are creams and blues, which encourage more light to enter the rooms. The atmosphere is buzzing, yet there's an air of sophistication. More importantly, there's a spa; it's a great facility for the available space and the clientele it attracts. It's under the main hotel and as you lie on one of the sun loungers next to the pool, there's a panoramic glass window that lets you look out on to the estuary. There's a decent sized pool, enough to work up a little sweat, a whirlpool, steam room, sauna, and a quiet room with giant 'pebbles' to recline on. There's cold fruit water on tap. Upstairs is a gym although I wasn't in an active mood. I liked lying on the loungers, complete with their own reading lamps, although it does get rather busy, so the noise levels are not always so relaxing.
WHAT ARE THE ROOMS LIKE?
The rooms spread over 3 floors, most of them have a terrace with a chair and table to enjoy the estuary. It's the ideal opportunity to order room service breakfast if the weather is good, of course. The rooms are bright and airy; king-sized beds, crisp white bed linen, a funky lighting system, mini bar and complimentary gin and sherry served in glass decanters in every room. The hotel caters for weddings, so if you're prone to hearing the slightest pin drop, ask to be on the top floor. Some rooms allow dogs, so check this out before you arrive if you'd like to bring your furry friend.
SHOULD I EAT HERE OR HEAD OUT INTO TOWN?
With its epic views out over the estuary I would really recommend a dinner in the hotel restaurant. Its open-planned dining room not only has an impressive and eclectic main menu with a strong emphasis on fish, its non-fish offering is also worth checking out. As one would expect them to serve good fish, I opted to have the twice-baked cheese soufflé; a light bread-like texture surrounded by bubbling cheese. The shin of beef was a triumph of melt-in-the-mouth richness and the perfect portion size. In the summer, the counter opens up to a riot of seafood and fish that guests can choose from themselves. Service is excellent too. There's a friendly bar with a great selection of drinks on offer and a cosy lounge area complete with art and photography books to flick through.
WHAT'S GREAT ABOUT THIS HOTEL?
It's got to be the views. The staff are great too; Ray in the restaurant is very chatty and Imogen on the front desk was a joy. Most of the staff are young but, despite this, are trained well and service level is high.
AND WHAT'S NOT SO GREAT?
I wasn't a fan of the radio playing in the restaurant over breakfast; it wasn't relaxing and I felt like I was at a café. The spa gets quite busy so finding the time to have the facilities to yourself might take a bit of working out.
The chic, luxury Salcombe Harbour Hotel & Spa is recognised as one of the most desirable waterside hotels in the UK, perched on the edge of Salcombe's stunning Estuary. Complete with a coastal retreat spa, private cinema, waterside restaurant taking in Salcombe's panoramic vistas, prices start from £280 for an Inland room and £480 for a Suite on a bed and breakfast basis.
( 01548 844444)
The team at the Salcombe Tourist Information Centre will help plan your fabulous South Devon stay, recommending the very best eateries and activities to suit your tastes. Just call 01548 843927 or visit salcombeinformation.co.uk
Here are a few other recommendations on places to eat in Salcombe and a little beyond:
The Fortescue Arms, Union Street, TQ8 8BZ
The fishermen's choice of pub. The owner demands only fresh and traceable fish, seafood, meat and vegetables. I had some locally caught scallops, with the roe's left on, simply seared with panchetta. They were soft and delicious. Also on the menu was a monkfish and prawn red thai curry. This is a real local's pub with a friendly atmosphere and a definite sense of fishing history.
THE BEACH HUT
The Winking Prawn, North Sands, TQ8 8LD
A fun beach hut style cafe set back slightly from North Sands beach, a short drive or walk away from Salcombe centre. It's great for kids thanks to it's candy coloured tables and chairs, bunting and a huge dressing up box. The menu is mostly fish and seafood as you might expect; whole crab, split lobster, chargrilled scallops and large pots of shell on prawns. Dinner is also available with a slightly more upmarket menu. Non fish eaters will have plenty to choose from - Sri Lankan honey roast duck with noodles caught my eye. Avoid the 1pm lunch rush so come early as it gets packed out.
THE RELAXED LUNCH
No 55, 55 Fore Street, TQ8 8JE
For a relaxed, european style lunch or dinner, head to this bistro style restaurant to sample locally sourced ingredients. It's a small cosy restaurant with a mezzanine level. Booking is advisable but equally, walk in's are welcomed. Typical starters are Italian in feel; the calamari is soft and tender, the best i've ever eaten. Linguine tossed with chilli and crab was vibrant and fresh and the right sized portion as a main. The staff are attentive and friendly and will let you know what's on the specials menu.
TOP 3 THINGS TO DO IN SALCOMBE:
South Devon Chilli Farm, Loddiswell, Kingsbridge, TQ7 4DX
Opening in 2003, this farm grows an astonishing 209 different varieties of chillies including the Trinidad Scorpion, the 2nd hottest chilli in the world. Buy everything chilli at the farm shop on site plus they've got a good cafe and a children's play-area. The best time to visit is July-October when the chillies are growing but if you miss out, or visit out of season, you can order fresh chillies online where they're picked to order (seasonal only).
TOP TIP. The Seeds are not what makes a chilli hot; it's the white lining that causes the heat, so scrape that out if you want to avoid it, or simply try the Chilly Chilli grown at the farm.
Salcombe Gin Distillery, Island Street, TQ8 8DP
July 2016 saw the launch of Salcombe's very own gin followed by it's magnificent distillery and gin school in November 2016. It's a citrus led gin with 13 other botanicals to compliment. Book in for a day at the school and learn how to craft your own gin using their mini distillers and the wide array of botanicals on tap or just simply enjoy a G&T in the bar.
TOP TIP. arrive in time for a sunset drink in their upstairs bar. Because of it's location, it's the only place in Salcombe to catch the evening sunset.
Overbeck's Garden, The National Trust, Sharpitor, TQ8 8LW
Garden lovers will want to check out the rare and tropical plants at National Trust property, Overbeck, sitting high on the hill overlooking the mouth of the Estuary. The house itself has an eclectic mix of taxidermy collected by Otto Overbeck throughout his travels in the 1920's. The garden has a magnificent Magnolia tree that was fully blossomed at the time of my visit.
TOP TIP Overbeck's is difficult to reach by car especially at the height of Summer and although the walk is magnificent, it's challenging. Why not the ferry that runs from the white strand in Salcombe instead? It operates from Easter to end of October every 30 minutes.